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October 24, 2006 > Dennis Eckersley - one of the greats

Dennis Eckersley - one of the greats

by Steve Michel

Dennis Eckersley was born October 3, 1954 in Oakland and raised in Fremont. He attended Washington High School and played baseball, basketball and football. After making All League in baseball as a pitcher in his junior and senior years, he was drafted out of high school by the Cleveland Indians.

Eckersley graduated from Washington High School in 1972. His first stop in professional baseball was Reno, Nevada in 1973 where he pitched for the Reno Rhinos. After three productive years in the minor leagues, Eckersley was called up to the major leagues in 1975 by the Cleveland Indians. His rookie year with the Indians was a big success, wining 13 games and losing only seven. In his second season, he won 13 games again. In 1977, his third season with Cleveland, he won 14 games.

The next year he was traded to the Boston Red Sox where he had his best year ever as a starting pitcher winning 20 games and losing only eight. He threw a no-hitter for the Red Sox during the 1978 season. Another good year followed in 1979 when he won 17 games and lost only 10 for Boston.

Although Eckersley was enjoying success in the big leagues, his marriage to his high school sweetheart ended in divorce and he was fighting a battle with alcohol abuse. He was traded from the Red Sox to the Chicago Cubs during the 1984 season. After two up and down seasons in Chicago, he finally beat the bottle and came home to play for the Oakland A's in 1987.

In nine years with Oakland, he would see his best years. He was removed from the starting rotation becoming the most dominant closer in major league baseball. In Oakland, Eckersley won 41 games, saved 320 games, and won the Most Valuable Player award as well as a Cy Young award.

He led the major leagues in saves in 1988 with 45 and again in 1992 with 51. His earned run average in 1990 was 0.61 and saved 48 games. Eckersley helped Oakland win the 1989 World Series in four straight games against the San Francisco Giants. After leaving Oakland in 1996, he pitched two more years for the St. Louis Cardinals and finished his 24-year career in the major leagues with the Boston Red Sox in 1988 with a 4-win 1-loss record. His final career numbers show 197 wins, 390 career saves, and a 3.50 earned run average. Those numbers were good enough for induction into the major league baseball Hall of Fame in 2005- his first year of eligibility.

He started his baseball career in Fremont and now he will be enshrined in Cooperstown, New York with the likes of fellow Hall of Fame members Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Reggie Jackson, Gob Gibson, Steve Carlto and many other greats. In his Hall of Fame induction speech, Eckersley said how he found it amazing that a kid from Fremont, California could end up in the major league baseball Hall of Fame.

The name Dennis Eckersley will live on forever as one of major league baseball's greatest players.

 
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